However, even with total exclusion of fishing effort, depleted stocks sometimes show little or no recovery over a long time period. Where there were only about 430 marine protected areas as of 1985, today there are more than 15,600 covering more than 25 million square kilometers (9.7 million square miles), or nearly 7 percent of the Earth’s oceans, according to the latest figures from the U.N.’s Protected Planet data repository at the time of writing this story. What is a marine protected area? Having a rigorous, evidence-based approach across more areas of conservation would enable us to see what’s working and what’s not—and, most important, why. By contrast, in a 2000 study from Kenya, researchers found that while the creation of a no-take marine protected area had led to some spillover, the fish catch was lower than it was before the park’s creation halved the available fishing area. Gabby Ahmadia, WWF senior marine scientist, surveys a reef in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, “You would assume MPAs are always good for marine species, but we’ve never had solid evidence to really understand the magnitude and variation of ecological outcomes in the protected areas,” she says. Jan Piter Renuth is the Raja (King) of Loorlobay, one of the three kings of Kei Besar, a small island in Indonesia’s Eastern Maluku Regency. Most positive examples come from marine protected areas that are either very small (so the fishers lose only a small amount of their previous fishing area), or from parks located in areas where fish stocks are severely overexploited, said the University of Washington’s Hilborn. Sunset over Stellwagen Sanctuary. “In developing nations and highly diverse fisheries — as is the case with many coral reef fisheries in tropical countries — traditional fisheries management has not been as effective and marine protected areas are often a much more effective and viable strategy. Similarly, some researchers found that the increase in no-take zones in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef did not lead to the long-term improvements in fish catch that authorities had promised. When considered together, though, most studies suggest that marine protected areas can be good for marine life. Rigorous studies are rare, according to experts, and indeed our literature sample turned up mostly case reports showing varying outcomes that cannot necessarily be attributed to the marine protected areas. Sasi and related forms of customary property rights are just some of the many factors that make marine ecosystem management so complex in Indonesia. Copyeditor: Hayat Indriyatno But we were able to get enough control sites that it did work.”. Ahmadia’s ecological monitoring occurs in parallel to Glew’s social study, which is being conducted across a similar breadth of geography and time. Bottom trawlers, for example, can severely alter the ocean floor and benthic ecosystems, which provide food and shelter for fish and other marine species. Follow the category format that is relevant to the management area (either A. if the management area is terrestrial, or B., if it is marine). “The most critical gap with respect to ecological outcomes, in my opinion, is sufficient data over time to determine how, how quickly and for how long potential ecological effects are occurring,” Halpern said. 2.4 Physical Environment of Management Area Protected areas within Belize normally fall in to one of two categories – terrestrial or marine. The turtles drift on the surface with their limbs retracted, sunlight bouncing off their tiny shells. Social change in Kei Besar is inevitable; sasi still holds strong for now, but young people are leaving the island in increasing numbers and with them goes the traditional sense of stewardship that could be handed down. When we arrive, some of the farmers take us to see six hatchlings they’ve been protecting. The remaining seven were meta-analyses that looked at dozens of studies. For example, a 2013 study found that fishers who worked near the Goukamma marine protected area in South Africa saw a nearly steady increase in the catch of commercially important Roman seabream (Chrysoblephus laticeps) over the 10 years since the park’s establishment in 1990. But there are many counterexamples and other issues in play — in other words, context matters.”, So, wherever marine protected areas are being promoted as tools for sustainable fisheries, alternative fisheries management options must be considered, Hilborn said. Mongabay is a U.S.-based non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform. This plea to begin establishing marine protected areas gained momentum over decades. 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However, there are a growing number of meta-analyses and systematic reviews; our sample included 10. View our inclusive approach to conservation. Concrete actions are urgently needed to bring true protection and restoration to our ocean. A majority of scientists accepted the paradigm that the oceans were unlimited. A great deal of research has looked into whether they do, although much of it is not of the highest quality: many studies do not have rigorous designs and cannot definitively attribute observed changes to the marine protected area itself. There is a wealth of evidence that networks of adequately protected NTRs can potentially buffer the negative effects of marine resource exploitation, protect or restore natural states of biodiversity and ecosystem function, and deal with many fishery problems that are not effectively addressed by more traditional management measures. Maintain Fisheries. Marine protected areas (MPAs) have attracted much attention as a tool for sustainable fisheries management, restoring depleted fisheries stocks and maintaining ecosystems. Our understanding of how marine protected areas affect the well-being of local people is currently poor. back to top. Introduction. Behind him, a saltwater crocodile as long as a man is tall lies asleep in a cage; its presence is never explained. The rigorous scientific approach Gabby, Louise, and their partners bring will allow us to measure and communicate the direct benefits these MPAs have had for marine conservation and human well-being.”. Our conclusions will help inform local marine management decisions, shape global policy on when and where MPAs can be effective tools for conservation, and influence the design of new MPAs in Indonesia. “The Walton Family Foundation believes strongly in the power of monitoring and evaluating the conservation work we support, so we can say with conviction whether those actions will lead to the changes in the water—and in people's lives—that we expect. Critics counter that marine protected areas restrict local communities’ access to their ancestral fishing grounds, make them poorer and often increase conflict between them and people involved in park management or tourism. We use distribution data for 1,338 commercially important fisheries stocks around the world to model how MPAs in different locations would affect catch. “But I do think we need a lot of emphasis on the human element: to what extent marine protected areas affect human well-being for coastal communities that rely on the oceans for their livelihoods.”, Writer: Shreya Dasgupta, Researcher: Amy Fensome The “roll master” rolls out 150 feet of tape at as close to a uniform depth as the underwater topography allows. As he greets us, he jokes that having lost both his hearing and his teeth, his eyes will be the next to go. Cite this Article: Brian Owens “Canada Gives BP Okay to Explore in Marine Conservation Area,” Hakai Magazine, Nov 27, 2020, accessed December 10th, 2020, https://www.hakaimagazine.com/news/canada-gives-bp-okay-to-explore-in-marine-conservation-area/. Specifically, in partnership with Glew, a team of Universitas Papua professors and students conducts a targeted series of household surveys, focus groups, and key informant interviews. Read the other stories in the series here. In theory, marine protected areas, particularly those that are closed off to all or most fishing, can allow overfished species to mature undisturbed and produce more offspring. “Nobody had done this before, so it wasn’t something that I could look at in other marine protected areas,” Ahmadia said. But when the coverage remained below 2 percent in 2010, the CBD extended the deadline to 2020. Information on these can be found at the website for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Moreover, the fish catch increased substantially — by between 46 and 90 percent, depending on the type of traps the fishers used. One of the most powerful and effective methods for protecting fisheries resources and ocean life is the marine protected area (MPA)—a clearly … “The gold standard would be to conduct surveys both inside the marine protected area before it is established and in comparable unprotected sites, and then continuously monitor both sets of conditions over time to see if the changes are just because of the marine protected area, or something else.”. SHIFTING THE DEBATE Back in the village, Glew has been talking to Anolda Jamlean, who has been using the profits from seaweed farming to see her grandchildren through college. Creating marine protecting areas, they stressed, was the best approach to addressing this degradation of the marine environment. In 1962, at the First World Conference of National Parks in Seattle, U.S., Carleton Ray, a marine biologist at the University of Virginia, pleaded the cause of setting aside “unmolested” areas in the sea. Many studies also do not compare marine protected areas with comparable control sites — that is, unprotected areas of the ocean that are otherwise equivalent to the protected areas. Studies have also looked more at impacts on reef-type habitats than on other coastal habitats like mangroves or kelp forests. A marine protected area (MPA) is an area of sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biodiversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means. “Such studies aren’t experimental and their results are subjective, but they are important because it matters whether the people think the marine protected areas have been effective or not,” Ban said. He nods in approval as the box is passed from person to person. Historical environmental and socioeconomic data from before marine protected areas were established is often unavailable, making it difficult to identify changes with certainty. The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off Hawaii is one of the largest protected areas in the world. In 2004, the world’s governments adopted their first tangible international target under the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): They committed to conserving at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2012. But the reserves affect different species in different ways, Halpern wrote. World Wildlife Fund Inc. is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax ID number 52-1693387) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Protecting marine life and conserving biodiversity remains the main driver behind the creation of marine protected areas. At present, Canada has declared 8 MPAs and has another 8 under consideration. Is establishing marine parks better for species and habitats than leaving areas unprotected? QUANTIFYING CONSERVATION On our dive, Ahmadia brings along transect tape and a clipboard to show me how reef monitoring is carried out. Securing these rights could translate into a sustainable harvest for generations to come, not to mention crucial protection for a large tract of mangrove and—at $10 a crab—valuable income for harvesters. Hawaiian Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are utilized by hundreds of visitors every day and concern exists that recreation impacts are damaging fragile coral reef habitats at these sites. Introduction. We adopted a nested approach integrating the dynamics of both within … And this sort of buy-in from local stakeholders is a crucial component of MPA design: In truth, a good chunk of conservation work is about listening to people and building consensus among different groups, from those at the village level to policymakers. There’s a mountain of research on marine protected areas. Louise Glew, lead scientist for monitoring and evaluation at WWF, talks to Maluku resident Emiliana Sirken about the effect of the mud crab fishing group on her livelihood. Marine reserves (MR), also known as no-take marine protected areas (MPA), are widely acknowledged as a conservation tool and their utility in a variety of situations is well established .In particular over-exploited fish populations are shown to recover in the absence of fishing and generally become more abundant and attain a larger mean size in the reserve . Increased fishing effort outside of MPA Increased travel costs/time to open areas Increased user conflicts in open areas Distributive equity changes; increased disparity Increased occupational risks. The designation of Protected Areas (PAs) is a key policy for biodiversity conservation internationally. This is part six in the Mongabay series Conservation Effectiveness. Compared with the more limited monitoring techniques that have been used before now, this method gives us a high return on investment. The Raja is as theatrical as he is observant of tradition. Slow-growing, long-lived species like cod tend to respond to protection more gradually than fast-growing, short-lived species like scallops. Benyon review Into Highly Protected Marine Areas: Final report - executive summary ... once ecological principles are met sites are selected to minimise any negative effects on certain groups. Was the marine protected area designed to protect a particular species? Both Ahmadia and Glew believe that these field methods could easily be transitioned to terrestrial monitoring, applied to the development of certification standards, and used to inform community-based conservation strategies, among others. In a more recent study published last year, George Mason University’s Gill and his colleagues compared fish data from 218 marine protected areas with matching unprotected areas to weed out potential rival explanations. Infographic: Zuzana Burivalova, GreenInfo Network. This is at the crux of what Ahmadia, Glew, and their partners are pushing for: a new evidence-based dialogue about MPAs that will help us move beyond conjecture and subjective decision-making, and ultimately improve how MPAs are run. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are scientifically demonstrated to fight both the climate and biodiversity crises. Benefits from tourism and other jobs related to the protected area were inequitably distributed, and the communities felt marginalized. Our review isn’t exhaustive and our search terms have focused specifically on certain outcomes, rather than on all the outcomes of marine protected areas that have been studied. “Getting to the right amount of data takes time and thoughtful planning,” says Glew. As with terrestrial protected areas, conservationists and governments are now trying to understand how marine protected areas affect local people and find ways to either improve their lives or at least avoid harm. The landmark Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) came into force in January and protects 80 per cent of Palau's waters, making it one of the largest marine protected areas in the world. If we do not press for marine as well as terrestrial sanctuaries and for regulations over our marine activities, then I ask again, who will?”. The issue compiles 20 scientific studies authored by NOAA scientists and partners covering more than five years' worth of data collection, analysis, and interpretation. We show that strategically expanding the existing global MPA network by just 5% can improve future … This study, published in 2001, found that the biomass of five commercially important fish families increased both inside and outside marine reserves in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia within three years of establishment. “If we conservationists and biologists do not think of the planet as one — earth and water — then I ask, who will? Do marine parks improve fisheries and the well-being of fisheries-dependent communities? 1. WWF’s office there has been working with a seaweed-farming group to promote alternative livelihoods and protect endangered turtle populations. Our review captured only one empirical study that looked at this (possibly because our review and search terms were not exhaustive). Two other divers count fish, with one cataloguing species above 14 inches in length and the other compiling a list of smaller fish. The design of marine protected areas (MPAs) has been optimized under assumptions of spatially and temporally homogeneous larval dispersal, despite complex spatiotemporal patterns displayed by ocean currents. The body of scientific literature on marine protected areas may be vast, but the quality of the studies within it is highly variable and riddled with information gaps. Only three studies considered a range of alternative factors and were more rigorous in their approach. Similarly, heavily exploited species are likely to respond to protection more quickly than those that are not fished, because fishing — the main activity impacting their survival — is suddenly removed from the reserve. The WWF and Universitas team then analyzes that data together—trading insights and updates between Indonesia and Washington, DC. Punishments for noncompliance start at a stern telling off, he claims, but escalate with astonishing quickness to capital punishment. Of the 29 studies that looked at environmental outcomes within our sample, 19 were either case reports or simple inside-versus-outside comparisons that did not account for alternative explanations for the patterns they recorded. Some marine biologists have, in fact, cautioned against making dubious promises about increasing fisheries yield when the current research cannot possibly predict it. In exchange, the seaweed farmers have agreed to stop harvesting hawksbill turtle eggs. They have been embraced by high level international bodies as being important for achieving biodiversity goals (e.g. Some studies from the Mediterranean Sea have also found an increase of fish catch near marine reserves over the years. “It’s just that until now, no one has systematically gathered enough data on human well-being, underpinned by an appropriate monitoring design, to build an accurate picture of how MPAs actually affect communities at scale.”. But their ambitions don’t end there. To do this, the team collates preexisting data on key variables—such as exposure to wave action, reef type, distance to market, and social structure—that do, or likely will, influence where MPAs are established. If you value this objective and impact-driven journalism, please consider becoming a sustaining member. Indeed, as mentioned, a good body of research suggests that species targeted by fishers often do respond well to protection. Potential issues include: Shifts in Access and Use. Using a new, more rigorous approach, Glew and Ahmadia are matching MPA sites with suitable control sites outside of the MPAs with an eye toward identifying those unprotected settlements and reefs that are most similar to those inside the monitored and protected areas. “You just need a caveat that while some of what you’re seeing might be attributable to the marine protected areas, you can’t necessarily prove it beyond any doubt,” said the University of Victoria’s Ban. The turtles are old enough to be released, so we carry them out into the water and set them free. Monitoring change over time provides much richer understanding of how ecosystems within and outside marine protected areas are responding, which in turn helps us understand why they are changing.”. There is still room for improvement in study designs, though, and a need to fill research gaps, especially when it comes to studying certain marine habitats and non-commercial species. But both approaches are limited—neither allows you to accurately isolate the effects of the MPA.”, Jan Piter Renuth, Raja (King) of Loorlobay. Many scientists also began presenting evidence that fishing was causing the world’s fish stocks to collapse: Overfishing was pushing many marine species toward extinction and destroying or altering marine habitats. I think it’s useful to keep studying that — how things change with time and protection,” Ban said. This lack of clear objectives can be problematic. WWF-Indonesia is helping Sirken’s group establish sustainable harvest guidelines and record their catch data. The last two team members collect data from the sea bottom itself, calculating the percentage of coverage by corals, sponges, rocks, and other substrate or living organisms within the reef’s ecosystem. Many studies tend to focus on fish, for example, especially the commercially important ones, he said. densities of fish and other reef species are most frequently found in protected areas (Alcala et al., 2005; White et al., 2006; Maliao et al., 2009). Cosmos Sirken searches for mud crabs in the mangroves near his home. But much of the research that exists on this consists of case reports that depend on interviews with local people. The Raja begins by describing sasi, a traditional resource management system that is common among coastal communities in eastern Indonesia. In the case of pelagic fishing, bycatch is likely to be the key negative side effect on nontarget species, but in the case of benthic trawling, the entire ecosystem faces massive disturbance (Watling and Norse, 1998). For $10/month get World Wildlife in print, 1250 24th Street, N.W. Countries are now frenziedly creating more marine protected areas, increasingly very large ones, either out of genuine concern for marine life or to meet international targets. Seaweed farming is huge in the Kei Islands, and the government is actively supporting it in an attempt to provide income to local communities—income which offsets fishing activities that put pressure on reef fish stocks. Photo by Greg McFall, NOAA. Or to attract tourists? But the people living around the protected areas also rated their household well-being as lower than those in the control villages. “I think most of the public is misled in the sense that they consider [the] establishment of a marine protected area as being an important conservation goal but the reality is that there are very little biodiversity benefits from most marine protected areas. A boy plays near Pasir Panjang beach, Kei Kecil, where many people feel a deep connection to the sea. “Not all marine protected areas can or should be expected to meet all possible objectives,” said Benjamin Halpern, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. TURTLES AND TRANSECTSWe visited the small island of Pulau Nai to lay groundwork for upcoming monitoring efforts in the surrounding Kei Kecil MPA. “The real challenge,” Glew explains, “is to design MPAs so that they work with preexisting social systems. Proponents argue that marine protected areas can have a slew of positive effects on fishing and coastal communities, including improved livelihoods from fisheries, political empowerment and new governance and job opportunities. Not only does it make the evaluation of a marine park’s effectiveness hard, but it also can lead to unrealistic expectations of potential benefits for biodiversity, fisheries or human welfare that aren’t always achieved, said Natalie Ban, a marine biologist at the University of Victoria, Canada. “We need to move away from the polarizing conversations about whether MPAs are 'good' or 'bad,' and instead look at the nuances that can determine how we implement our findings to improve MPA design.”. What evidence exists is mixed, according to experts, and depends on the local context. “We lost about a quarter of our dataset because we did not find appropriate protected and unprotected matches, but by doing this, we were also more confident about our results,” Gill said. They have to be done right in order to work. “Most studies look at two or just a single point in time. But the researchers added a caveat: “[Twenty] percent of remaining studies that failed to provide any evidence of spillover is likely to be underestimated … because of publication bias in ecology, and specifically in marine protected area science,” where positive results are favored, they wrote. Benny Yamlean farming seaweed on Nai Island, part of Kei Kecil Marine Protected Area. Back at Sirken’s house, we ate freshly prepared crab while his son, Bosco, entered the data from our harvest into a Google Nexus tablet supplied through WWF’s collaboration with Google. The future expansion of Ireland’s MPA network could also help us to combat the negative effects … The offspring can then swim over the invisible boundaries to adjacent fished areas and provide bigger catches and more money for fishers. Overall, researchers say that there is quite a lot of evidence to show that marine protected areas can benefit species, particularly those that have been threatened historically within the protected area boundaries. It is primarily a set of rules regarding the use—or restriction of use—of natural resources. One such gap, experts say, is that marine protected areas sometimes lack clear objectives when they are created. Marine protected areas (MPAs) can be effective tools for marine resource management. Here we studied the effect of dispersal variability on the effectiveness of MPA networks across scales. These distill and explain some of the broader trends associated with marine protected areas. He further analyzed a subset of 17 studies that had information from before the reserves were established, and concluded that fish density and biomass increased within one to three years of the creation of the reserves. But not everyone is convinced. “Man is using the sea at a great rate, polluting it, developing its borders,” he said in one of the conference sessions. And this is where Ahmadia and Glew’s coordinated ecological and social monitoring really comes into its own. The results of this single study cannot be generalized, of course. In general terms, this means that the area, from the surface to the bottom, is protected from some activities which may have negative effects on the area. He drives this last claim home with one of the many swords he has laid out on the table. Throughout Indonesia, as communities undergo similar changes, there’s a real opportunity for the conservation community to help build a more workable foundation to advance and improve our care of natural resources. Marine protected areas can benefit marine life, but impacts are uneven By closing off areas of the ocean to fishing and other extractive activities, marine protected areas, especially marine reserves that ban all or most such activities, are expected to help species recover. Gill agreed that only a handful of such rigorous studies exist, and pointed to one published in 2014 that looked at the social impacts of marine protected areas in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Halpern agreed that the benefits of marine protected areas on fisheries are very context-dependent and traditional management techniques, such as seasonal fishing closures or restrictions on certain kinds of fishing equipment, sometimes come out ahead. (Glew herself does not conduct in-person interviews, for fear the presence of a WWF staff scientist would skew the results—something Ahmadia needn’t fear with the fish.) A recent Endangered Species Research special issue summarizes some of the devastating longterm effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on protected marine mammals and sea turtles. These marine protected areas were simply “paper parks,” he wrote in The Conversation, “lines on the map that fail to achieve desired conservation outcomes.”, “This is a very worrying statistic in terms of biodiversity conservation goals,” Edgar told Mongabay. “And the right amount of data is lots and lots,” Ahmadia adds with a smile. Our understanding of the impacts of marine protected areas on marine ecology, however, is skewed towards certain areas and species, said Alex Caveen, author of the book, “The Controversy Over Marine Protected Areas: Science Meets Policy,” who has reviewed the scientific literature on marine protected areas from 1990 to 2010. 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